Tuesday, May 31, 2016

World Green Economy Summit 2016 in Dubai

On October 5th and 6th Dubai will be hosting 3rd World Green Economy Summit (WEGS) 2016 in conjunction with Water, Energy Environmental Exhibition and Dubai Solar Show 2016. The Summit is hosted by DEWA under the umbrella of the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy, in collaboration with World Climate Ltd, international partners is supported by the United Nations

Under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai; on 29th May H.E. Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer hosted a press conference to announce the agenda and speakers for the third World Green Economy Summit.

Talking at the press conference, H.E. Saeed Al Tayar informed, WEGS 2016 is held under a new theme 'Driving Global Green Economy'. WGES 2016 aims to support the UAE Vision 2021 and further the National Agenda to promote sustainable development. The Summit aims to support Dubai’s ambitions in the Green Economy sector and drive the Clean Energy Strategy 2050. Through this strategy Dubai aims to provide 7% of it's energy demand from solar sources by 2020, 25% by 2030 and 75% from clean energy by 2050, and seeks to make Dubai the city with the lowest carbon footprint in the world by 2050 and a global center for clean energy and energy conservation.
H.E. Thani Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment

At the press conference Mr. Frode Mauring, United Nations Resident Coordinator & United Nations Resident Development Programme Resident Representative in UAE said “The summit demonstrates UAE’s willingness to exert leadership in innovative approaches to green economy developments building on its own pioneering efforts and vision”.

Watch this video of Mr. Adnan Amin, Director- General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) talking at press conference

World Green Economy Summit 2016

In WGES 2016 number of distinguished speakers will be participating including: Helen Clark, Administrator, UNDP; H.E. Mohamed Boussaid, Minister of Economy and Finance, Morocco; H.E. Thani Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change, Government of UAE; H.E. Reem Ebrahim Al Hashimy, Minister of State for Int. Cooperation, MD Dubai Expo 2020; Ken Berlin, CEO, Climate Reality Project; Daniel CALLEJA CRESPO, Director-General, EU; H.E. Dr. Khaled Fahmy, Minister of Environment, Arab Republic of Egypt; Adnan Z. Amin, Director General, International Renewable Energy Agency; Gasem Al Shaikh, CEO, Petroleum, Chemicals & Mining Company Limited; and Torben Moger Pedersen, CEO, PensionDanmark.

The programmer will incorporate plenary sessions, breakout sessions and a wide selection of expert-led presentations, covering key topics including:
  • Green Finance: How to mobilize sufficient global green capital
  • Solar Energy: World energy game changers bringing about the solar revolution
  • Smart, Happy & Green: Transforming cities through people and technology
  • Road to COP22 in Marrakech: Bringing the Paris agreement into action from agreement to action
  • Thought Leadership for the Green Economy: Making Initiatives out of targets for the green economy
  • The Public Private Partnership Platform: The unique green economy match-making mechanism

Upcoming sustainability announcements in UAE

During the question answer session of press conference I could ask few questions and here is what I learnt.

H.E. Al Zeyoudi answered UAE is taking steps to make sure to reaching fulfill INDCs revealed during Paris Agreement.

When asked about probability of solar cooling implementation in UAE, he answered in UAE Solar PV and CSP are the only renewable technologies are in use. UAE government always encourage private sector to bring new technologies and this is one of the goal of WEGS to bring sustainability technologies to region and invite private sector to participate in summit as well.

When asked if Dubai is planning to have desalination of water plants powered by renewable energy resources. H.E. Al Tayar informed about DEWA's research and development project; a desalination facility, RO plant powered by solar power, which can produce 13,000 gallon/day is under commissioning stage and soon to be announced.

Dubai is also planning to launch a free-zone dedicated to green or sustainable businesses. Watch H.E. Saeed Al Tayar answering Green Living in Dubai's question at press conference.

Click here to watch video of full session of question answer at press conference including the questions asked by Green Living in Dubai.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Shopping Eco Friendly for Kids in UAE

Natural Earth Paint
Recently I have found a great sustainable way to shop Eco-friendly for kids here in UAE. While we are preparing for my son's school starting in Sept,(I know it's too early. But I think we both are quiet excited about his big school), we have a big list of things to buy. When I shopped on My Organic Baby Shop online I could find few important items on my list without running around in mall! Isn't it great! And so Eco-friendly, I didn't waste petrol going to shops and saved huge time just by adding things in my cart only by clicking. Otherwise, we mums are spoiled in UAE for numerous options of shopping and it becomes a big time consuming task just to shop even for one item.

Frankly, it's even difficult to find real sustainable, Eco-friendly things here apart from few Eco Store. But buying on My Organic online Baby Shop was cake walk! The whole process of shopping online to receiving things delivered to home is very smooth. The online Eco store is has wide range of great Eco-friendly and organic products for newly born babies up to preschool age.
Now time to reveal my loot from my organic baby shop! Obvious things from my school preparation shopping list were tiffin box and water bottle. As just few days back I pledged to go plastic free in my household, any type of plastic bottle or tiffin was a big No No. I also didn't want to go for glass bottles, as I already have beautiful glass bottles and boxes by Life Factory. So I added nostalgic stainless steel tiffin by U.Konserve and stainless steel bottle by Eco Vessel to my shopping cart. Me and my son love getting messy with paints, so when I saw Natural Earth Paint kit I had to get one for my little painter! Another extended messy play my son loves is play dough so Veggie sculpting dough by We Can Too was must in my cart.

Veggie Play Dough
The best part of using Veggie play dough and Earth paints started from making them. They both come in powder form and you need to add little water to make it. Ruhaan's excitement started with this first step. The play dough by We Can Too is made purely out of plant based, organic food ingredients. I could smell turmeric when playing with yellow play dough! Same goes with Natural Earth Paint, these paints are made of naturally colored clay transformed into pigment through simple process of drying, crushing and sifting.

The reusable stainless steel lunch box and bottle helped our little man to go plastic free! I feel relaxed thinking I am not packing any toxins for his lunch along with food and drinks. The U.Konserve tiffin reminds me of my childhood, when all kids used to eat from steel boxes, then why did we shifted to these plastic lunch boxes full of toxins? The Eco Vessel bottle is so trendy and I selected such design that even I can take it with me, if I need to. Yes, it doesn't look like stainless steel bottle, but it is! The water stored inside doesn't get any smell even after a day or two, no toxins leaching in water! How healthy, just pure water!

My organic Baby Shop has selected such great Eco-friendly products from around the world that you can be sure that you are buying best Eco-friendly products for your children! Their baby products have such wide variety, I wish this online shop would have been there when Ruhaan was younger! Availability of sustainable baby or kids products is very important, once you decide to take up Green Parenting. Thanks to this online Eco Store, all these great products are just a click away!
Eco Vessel Bottle and U.Konserve lunch box

I don't need to tell you that I am going to be a regular buyer on this online Eco store and already have list of few products ready which include stainless steel straw, organic skin care for my son, snack bags. To shop on My Organic Baby Shop click here and start green beginnings for your little ones!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

IRENA's Renewable Energy Jobs Report 2016 Launched

Yesterday at IRENA's (International Renewable Energy Agency) 11th council meeting in Abu Dhabi, this year's Renewable Energy Jobs Annual Review is released. This is only global analysis of jobs in renewable energy sector. It presents the status of renewable energy employment, both by technology and in selected countries, over the past year.

The council meeting, which kicked off on 24th May was chaired by the Council elected H.E. Kenred Dorsett, Minister of the Environment and Housing of the Bahamas and 96 countries participated in council meeting.

Yesterday on second day of the council meeting, 3rd edition of Renewable Energy Jobs report was launched and presented in front of council. As part of media, I attended the launch presentation and it was fascinating to witness high level government representatives from around the world interacting on renewable energy challenges.

IRENA 11th Meeting of Council

Rabia Ferroukhi, Lead author of this report and Deputy Director, knowledge policy and finance center presented the latest status of #REjobs in which a great finding of women's share in renewable energy sector was revealed. In 90 renewable energy companies surveyed had workforce including 35% of women. Among them on average 32% of women hold management position and 28% are part of technical workforce.
Total 8.1 million people were directly or indirectly employed in renewable energy sector in 2015, which was increase of 5% than last year's 7.7 million jobs. By technology Solar Photo voltaic has highest number of employment followed by Liquid bio-fuels. As oil prices went down in 2015, it created competition to bio-fuels. China was dominant solar PV employer due it's undisputed lead in both manufacturing and installation.

Out of top 10 renewable energy job creating countries, 4 are from Asia; China, India, Japan and Bangladesh. Have a look at figure below showing employment by country or region.

Worldwide employment in nonrenewable energy sector is going down. In US oil and gas industry saw 18% drop this year.

Stand alone solar PV (solar lantern, solar home system) are providing employment opportunities in developing countries in rural areas. In 2015 Bangladesh added around 700,000 solar home systems. Which increased the employment by 13%. Though these kind of small scale renewable energy statistics are not included in the report.

Right after the launch presentation, country representatives presented challenges their nations face in renewable energy sector. Indian delegate Upendra Tripathy mentioned logistic losses of products required for renewable energy for example Solar PV manufactured in China. If India could manufacture these products locally, the cost will come down by 20-25% and renewable energy will be more affordable. India's ongoing Make In India initiative reflected even at IRENA council meeting!

Where as Germany's delegate, Maritin Schope raised the issue related to availability of experts in renewable energy sector. Prices of renewable energy coming down but there is not enough skilled workforce available.

Delegate from Algeria, Rachedi Menadi mentioned the challenge in creation of sustainable job opportunities. The employment numbers on renewable energy project goes down after design and construction as comparatively little manpower is required for running and maintaining renewable energy facilities.

Indonesian delegate Husin Bagis talked about their challenge in creating education and training required for renewable energy sector specially women in rural area.

IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin
IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin in a press meeting after the launch presentation discussed the way forward to address these challenges. He stated, 'Employment in renewable energy is much faster than traditional energy sector'

He mentioned, the need of multi level strategy is needed to address challenges in training, education and skilled workforce. Where private sector from their experience can provide information to governments on creating required training nationwide. SME has huge scope in this regard, where people learn and implement the knowledge in small working enterprises.

Mr. Adnan Zamin, also explained how women in rural area are decision makers in houses as the men migrate to urban areas for employment. These women are shifting to off grid renewable for cooking and household energy demands. They are becoming entrepreneurial increasing employment in small scale renewable sector.

In UAE, with announcement of Dubai’s Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park and the upcoming Abu Dhabi 350-megawatt solar PV tender; as part of country’s renewable energy target of 30 per cent in its power generation mix by 2030, renewable energy job market is picking up.

If the country achieves its renewable energy plans, it can create up to 91,000 jobs by 2030, most of which will be in solar PV. Watch video to see what Rabia Ferroukhi says about Renewable Energy jobs in UAE.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Sharjah Aquarium Released Rehabilitated Turtles

Yesterday on World Turtles Day, Sharjah Aquarium released five endangered native turtles back to their habitat. There can not be more opt celebration of World Turtles Day! These turtles were spotted and rescued by public on beach or in sea by fishermen in injured condition during last year and given to Sharjah Aquarium.

Sharjah Aquarium then with help of their in house marine biologist and Turtle Specialists rehabilitated these injured adult and juvenile four of Hawksbill Turtles and one Green Turtle. As part of their 'Because We Care' social responsibility initiative they are reaching out public and spreading awareness about marine turtles. On occasion of World Turtle Day these turtles were released back to their habitat at Al Hamriya Beach in Sharjah yesterday. Rashid Al Shamsi, Curator at Sharjah Museum informed the reason they selected the site, as there is a seawall built in sea near the beach. There are growing organism on bottom of this sea wall, which will provide food to these just turtles for the start.

Click to watch the video Interview with Rashid Al Shamsi, Curator at Sharjah Museum

The Sharjah Aquarium has been running a rehabilitation programme for past six years to rescue and care for sick and injured turtles and release them back into the wild. In future they are planning to tag these kind of rehabilitated turtles and track them. They are also working on collaborating with EWS-WWF to initiate more conservation programs.

Many delegates from government departments were present to witness and take part in turtle release. Director General of Sharjah Museums Department, Manal Ataya at the event said, 'Sharjah  Aquarium is playing vital role in educating public about the need to act as custodians of ocean'

Mariam Saeed Hareb, assistant under-secretory at The Water Resource and Nature Conservation Affairs Department in Ministry of Environment and Water was also present during the event. While having a small chat, she mentioned public can also share their innovative ideas with Ministry of Climate Change and Environment to help government to act against environmental issues and if the idea is implemented they can get awarded.

How Turtles Get Injuries?

Do you know, how the turtles are injured at the first place. Biggest reason of injury in turtles is hit by boat propeller, ingesting plastic bags and trapped in old style fishing nets.

Plastic pollution is a big threat for marine life. Specially Hawksbill turtle many times ingest plastic bags in sea as they appear like jelly fish to them. This is one important point, we need to note as this kind of threat is directly created by us. We can stop using plastic bags all together as there are many sustainable reusable bag options available to us.

Some fishermen are still using age old fishing nets, in which turtles are getting trapped. It's a need that fishermen should change to newer and safer tools.

Turtles can get seriously injured or even killed when they hit by boat propellers. Where ever possible propeller guards must be used to avoid these kind of accidents.

Watch this video of Turtle crawling back to their home! It was delightful to watch them getting vanished in sea to never return back may be!

At the end some interesting facts about these endangered native sea turtles!

Hawksbill turtles are smaller in size and are considered one of the most beautiful turtles for their colorful shells. The male hawksbill turtle or hachling once leave the land after hatching from eggs generally never return to land and spends it's lifetime in sea. Whereas Green turtle are one of the largest sea turtles. They are known as green turtles not because of color of their shell but the greenish color of their cartilage and fat. They can hold their breath under sea up to 5 hours as they are cold blooded.

Head to Green Living In Dubai's You Tube channel to watch more videos of yesterday's turtle release by clicking here.
Finally this is how we ended our World Turtles Day! 

'World Turtle Day' Must Wear!

Our little artist painted turtle and left his imprint! (He loves messy play) 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Eco Talk at Dubai International Academy

Last month, month of Earth Day, I was invited to Dubai International Academy to deliver an Eco Talk to year 4 students. Without thinking I just said yes, as I believe students or younger generation are best recipients of talk on this topic.These kids are born in age of climate change, so they are not skeptical about it. They have easily understood the need for efforts to be taken to stop climate change and accepted it as part of life. These generations don't need any convincing, they just are more Eco friendly than us naturally. They are eager to learn more and do more.

While preparing an interactive presentation, I didn't had exact idea on how much these kids might be aware of sustainable living. But when I started talking to them I was pleasantly surprised to see their level of Eco-awareness. Definitely credit goes to their school teachers and parents, but having such a brilliance audience was delight to me. Since years in my professional life I have been talking about sustainability to top management, engineers, stakeholders, developers, contractors working on sustainable development projects but I confess, I never had an audience as receptive and as engaging! If any of you have doubt on how much a kid in 4th grade can understand and grasp things about sustainable living, just ask me now.

It was an overdose of cuteness that morning! Imagine when you start your talk with good morning and get response from around 120 students  'Good Morning Miss Amruta' in unison! Their involvement in the talk was so much that our lecture time exceeded to almost double, but these well behaved kids not just sat through it till end but asked me brilliant questions, where I had to think before answering. I was delighted to see how much they knew about UAE's environment! While sharing my experience of living sustainable in UAE, I introduced them to many aspects of sustainability including sustainable food, sustainable fashion and techniques of recycling and reusing.

At the end of the talk, kids gifted me a handmade thank you card, which sits on my desk now. Spreading awareness about sustainable living is my passion and I am always happy to talk to students and extend my support to educational institutes because the satisfaction I get after making anyone more Eco-aware is difficult to describe. This was one of those best experiences of my sustainability blogger life!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Organic Milk in UAE

Do you know what exactly is organic milk? In previously published post Sustainable food, I explained how organic food is farmed. Similar principles of organic farming are applied to make organic milk. The cows are fed organic food, given no antibiotics, if they get sick and not given growth hormones.

Koita Organic Milk, launched by Dubai based company brings the organic milk to UAE from Italy, where their cows are fed on natural grass. If you have been to somewhere in Alps, you must have seen those cows wandering, grazing day and night.  Those happy cows make this tasty milk! The distance this milk travels to reach us, is only one thing I don't like about Koita Milk. But we love the taste, specially my son. My husband being chocolate addict, prefers their chocolate milk more.

By using this milk, we are also reducing plastic waste at our household, as this milk comes in tetra pack. There are no artificial preservatives added to this milk as this milk is given special heat treatment call UHT process before packaging. The milk is sterilized in this Ultra High Temperature processing increasing it's shelf life.  So the shipment of this milk come in ships instead of preferring air-travel, a good way to reduce some carbon footprint involved in this product. You don't have to store the sealed milk boxes in fridge but after opening you need to keep in fridge and consume with 3 to 4 days. 

But please make sure you and your kids are consuming enough iodine through salt or other food, as UHT process reduces iodine level significantly in milk. But living in coastal place like UAE, we have numerous natural sources of iodine available easily. 

On last note, 5% of their annual profit they donate to local charity, Adopt A Camp in UAE. Find out more about Koita Milk here.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Going Plastic Free In UAE

Going plastic free is not as easy to implement when we are so trapped in 'Use and Throw' culture. We use so many different forms of plastic during our daily life, that sometimes we don't even give thought to the larger picture of plastic pollution worldwide.

Do you even know that UAE has one of the highest consumption of bottled water per capita in the world? So it's no surprise when you see plastic bottles and bags dumped in remote desert or in mangrove. Generally 80% of plastic bottles are not even recycled. It can take upto 1000 years for plastic to degrade. One of the biggest threat to marine environment is due to plastic ending up in oceans. The waste generated by us either deliberately or accidentally ends up in rivers, waterways, coasts, floats in seas and finally ends up in ocean gyre. Great Pacific garbage patch in north pacific ocean is one such example.

Worst thing is plastic in ocean breaks down into small particles. Marine life without knowing what it is, eat it and when we eat fish and salt we also end up eating it. So plastic waste created by us is by now present in our bodies too.

In UAE's wild life, Hawksbill turtle, which is listed on IUCN's critically endangered species eat plastic bags floating in oceans, as those bags look like jellyfish! Plastic bags are one of the biggest threat to them.

Recycling is not the solution

Recycling plastic waste is not a solution as it has limitations. High energy use, toxicity and less possibility of reuse of recycled plastic these are the factors which make recycling plastic ineffective. We need to stop plastic waste at the source. Now a days innovative materials are discovered which are manufactured using organic raw materials and can be used as flexibly as plastic and are biodegradable. So plastic can be replaced by these Eco friendly biopolymer alternatives. We just need to stop using plastic and reduce the demand, so that plastic manufacturing will go down. We need to get over the cradle to grave materials like plastic! Hope these new biopolymer materials by companies like Ecovative, Earth Vision will be available in UAE soon.


Last week, when I was invited to the launch of Drop It campaign by Goumbook at Sofitel Dubai Downtown, I promptly said yes. Green Living in Dubai is more than happy to support this campaign which aims to reduce use of plastic bottles. Tatiana, co founder of Goumbook drew attention to the fact that bottled water is harmful for us to consume. The water kept longer time in plastic container get contaminated and become toxic. The campaign promotes eliminating plastic bottled water by installing a filter for tap water at your home or office. The campaign is launched under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al Nuaimi a.k.a. The Green Sheikh. While speaking at the launch H.H. pointed 'The change should start from us first, we need to change our habits and practice it!' It was inspiring when The Green Sheikh not just said it, but carried his own sustainable reusable water bottle to the event!
With H.H. Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al Nuaimi a.k.a. The Green Sheikh
Some other shocking facts about bottled water:
Price of bottled water is upto 1000 times the cost of tap water. The production of water bottles use 17 million barrels of oil a year and it takes three times water to make the bottle.

I would like to invite all my readers to take part in this campaign and say no to plastic (not just plastic bottles, but any form of plastic). If you are a regular reader, you know how much I love to talk about Eco-friendly reusable bags. But I would like to share with you, what are other ways I avoid using plastic in most of the forms.

Replace disposable plastic items 

1. Plastic bags
2. Plastic bottles
3. Foam or plastic plates, cups, cutlery and food containers
4. Plastic packaging material
5. Food or toiletries packed in plastic containers

If you look into your garbage bin, these are primary plastic waste. But most of these things you can stop using. This is just a quick guide on reducing plastic waste, specially when we are on the go or go outdoors.

1. No Plastic bags! I always keep big cotton or jute bags in car for grocery shopping. I love to flaunt my Eco friendly bags. Most times, I say no to plastic bags in almost all shops. What ever plastic or paper bags end up in my house, I keep them and use for trash.

My Plastic Alternatives
2. Drop Plastic bottles. I prefer carrying my water in glass or steel bottle, have stopped buying BPA free PET bottles. Even BPA free plastic is still plastic! Next step is I am going to ask for juices and coffee in my bottle or thermal cup, let's see how it works here.

3. While going outdoors, we have stopped using plastic/foam disposable items. Instead I use stainless steel cups, plates and cutlery. If needed I buy paper items.

4. Packaging Material. I haven't found a way to avoid packaging material in UAE, when we are buying new things, But I don't throw them try to reuse them for gift packing or craft or other uses.

5. Unfortunately there are so many things in our everyday use come in plastic packaging in UAE. We need a better system of refilling things which we need on regular basis, to avoid plastic containers.
My next initiative on the individual level is going to be to carry my own empty steel or glass container when going out. This way, if I order take away from any restaurant, I will be using alternatives to plastic. Watch this space for blog updates on the convenience of these initiatives.

For bottled water, may be Dubai municipality can start designing and installing paid drinking water fountains for EXPO 2020. Otherwise all those people coming from across the world will be drinking bottled water, increasing so much load on waste disposal system. Just discussing few suggestions.

Till we see some drastic steps at big level, we can just say no to plastic in our life! 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Sohad Acouri's Sustainable Bridal Couture

Recently a very talented Eco-designer Sohad Acouri invited me to his sustainable bridal fashion show, Lost Paradise at I Do wedding fair held at Intercontinental Dubai Festival city, to view his latest collection. 
Posing with Eco-Designer!
I was super excited to see the sustainable wedding gowns for the first time in my life and I should admit I was not disappointed a bit! After a slight drizzle, the fashion show started. The models wearing beautiful designs started appearing from behind a wall of roses and felt like we were really in paradise. Here is glimpse of fashion show, specially for those people who can not believe fashion can be sustainable!

What makes Sohad's Couture Sustainable?

Sohad Acouri Lost Paradise Bridal Couture
When I interviewed Sohad, obviously this was my first question and to my surprise his answer was Up-cycling. He has been recycling and reusing dresses from his old collection to create a new design. Three dresses in his latest collection Lost Paradise, were created by using fabric made in 80's.

He told me 'I only use fibers, organic silk, organic cotton and recycled fabrics. Even with the left over I create a special edition pret a porter, combining small pieces of fabrics to patch them and create my own sustainable fabrics.'

Sustainable Bridal Gowns
No doubt why he was nominated as Eco-Designer by Eluxe magazine as Eco-Designer of the region two years ago. Though he is been creating ethical fashion since last 10 years. This award winning designer is also UAE ambassador for Fashion revolution

This Eco-designer always looks for rare and vintage laces, guipure and silks. Those are hard to find but he search for it whenever he travels. These precious fabrics are high cost but are organic. Otherwise what you find in market is combination of poly, acetate and other chemical products mixed with silk and cotton. He believes, living in warm country it is essential for hygienic reasons to create sustainable fashion using only organic fabrics and pure silk.

Challenges in sustainable Fashion

When asked about it, Sohad mentioned; as leader in sustainable couture in region he feels the need to promote and spread awareness about sustainable fashion. 'This is hard, but our message message has to be delivered to our clients properly'. 
I am sure, we can spread awareness in region, when we have creative minds like Sohad. He is keen on continue creating his sustainable couture. He is opening his new store at Dubai Design District soon. He is also invited to showcase his brand in one the international Eco-shows. So we have a lot to look forward to from his haute couture.

Finally when asked about some tips for my readers on sustainable fashion, you really need to read what this Eco-designer replied;

'Fashion is repeated ideas created in past and manipulated to match the present, we all have those old clothes we love, we can always create something out of them. Just we need to be creative!" 

To know more about Sohad Acouri Haute Couture click here

Monday, May 2, 2016

Sustainable food in UAE

In last published post, I discussed what is Sustainable Food in general. But when we talk about sustainable food in UAE, there is quiet big change to make the food here sustainable.

Growing food in UAE through traditional farming has huge challenges. There is no naturally occurring soil in UAE so soil is bought from other countries in Asia. Lot of water is used for farming, the harsh summer increases that demand even more. But as there is no natural source of water in UAE, desalinated water from sea is used for farming. This water treatment uses high energy which makes farming in UAE totally unsustainable and increases pressure on natural resources and cause lot more carbon emission. So it's difficult to call food grown in UAE by traditional farming 'Sustainable Food'.

Will not comment much about organic food, though there are many organic farms in UAE; Organic certification locally is still in infancy and is following other certification bodies in Europe and US, which won't fit well here locally.

To make traditional farming more sustainable in UAE, government can initiate few new systems like,
1. Reusing specific organic waste to create compost and soil as end product and using that soil for farming instead of buying and shipping it from other places.
2. Providing treated grey water for farms for irrigation, so that they won't use desalinated water. This system will need investment but in long run will save more energy and reduce pressure on sewage disposal system too.
3. These above two systems can be implemented in every community instead of citywide and community food gardens can be formed.

Just few of my thoughts about how can we make the food growing in UAE more sustainable.

Buying Sustainable food in UAE

To buy sustainable food in UAE, we need to keep few things in mind. Like buying apples in UAE coming all the way from France would be less sustainable than buying Iranian apples. So I would say buying food from countries closer to UAE, gives us fresher food with less carbon emissions. Other factor is buying seasonal fruits and vegetables. Though we get almost all kind of food in UAE throughout the year, it makes more sense to buy seasonal food, which is preserved lesser and will be more fresh and  will definitely have more nutrition! We need to create demand of sustainable food. For organic food, we need to ask questions, read labels, do our research to find authentic organic food. If you are buying fish, refer this guide to choose wisely the sustainable fish.

Also read post sustainable food, to learn more about what is sustainable food, what exactly is organic food, what are ways to of sustainable food consumption & waste disposal.

Jabel Ali Golf Resort's Bio-Garden

Sustainable Food Growing in UAE

Growing capsicum in aquaponics
Recently I was invited to celebrate Earth Day at Jabel Ali Golf  Resort at their on site bio-garden, as part of their environmental and sustainability efforts. I was remarkably happy to see sustainable food growing, which I have been looking for a long time in UAE. It ticked so many boxes of my idea of 'Sustainable food in UAE'.

Growing lettuce in Aquaponics
Recently many hotels world wide are growing their own food to make hotels more sustainable and self sufficient. It was amazing to see, the same started happening in UAE. JA Golf Resort, already a Green Globe Certified property raise money to fund this Bio-garden by selling cooking oil from kitchen to convert into diesel. Their HSE manager told me that their recycled grey water is used to irrigate golf course. So they need to use desalinated water for irrigation of bio garden. But the best part is, this bio-garden is not just traditional garden, They have installed aquaponics systems through out the garden, which they are going to develop more in future. That makes this garden very sustainable. This is a great solution to growing food in UAE sustainably.

What is Aquaponics

Aquaponics is growing plants by fertilizing them with waste water from fish in a sustainable closed system. The water travel to plants with fish waste in it, which acts as fertilizer. The water gets filtered when it travels through plant and clean water travels back to fish tank. On larger scale it is key solution to mitigating food insecurity, climate change, ground water pollution and  mining.

Aquaponics systems are completely organic and they 4 to 6 times more productive than traditional gardening. Aquaponics systems use 90% less water than conventional gardens. This system has other advantages like less maintenance as no weed, fewer pests and no watering and fertilization needed.So that makes Aquaponics, one the most sustainable farming option in UAE

Aquaponics System at JA Golf Resort

Jabel Ali Golf Resort uses Tilapia Fish in aquaponics system to grow thyme, spring onion, cherry
Fresh Herbs from Bio-Garden
tomatoes, pear tomatoes, rose merry, mint, lettuce, basil and capsicum. The resort's kitchen are generally self sufficient for herbs requirements and use the bio-garden produce in preparing meals for the guests. They also have traditional garden where they grow herbs like basil, lemon trees but the gardener of Bio-garden told us, most of the herbs grown traditionally do not survive summer. Which they need to plant again in winter. Being a family friendly resort, they also arrange Bio-Garden kids day, It's a great way to educate our kids about how food grows and may be even about sustainable food. On the occasion of Earth Day, the guests planted 50 lemon trees. The produce grown in that garden was freshly picked for snacks and drinks prepared for us that day. The smells and taste of fresh herbs and lemons was one thing stayed with me from that evening!

Sustainable food has that power of bringing us not only nutrition but authentic experience of savoring food, empowering workforce in food industry, conserving our resources and well being of everyone; we, our future generations and our planet!
Earth Day celebration by planting lemon tree! Getting dirty is part of gardening!

What is Sustainable Food?

Last month, on Earth Day 2016, I decided to spread the word of sustainability in two big industries Food and Fashion through the blog this year! Of course these are integral parts of Living Sustainable and need lot of awareness. Great thing is, people around the world are picking up interest in sustainability in these two industries and UAE is not lagging.

I will be publishing shortly a separate post on 'Sustainable Food in UAE', (I know you have big question mark on your face); I would like to write first about what exactly is sustainable food?

Spoon and Fork are painted with Warali tribal art showing farming activities

Organic Food

When we talk about sustainable food, people often end up summing it up under organic food. So first let's see what makes food Organic.

To grow Organic food, we need soil, water and seeds which are natural and free from any chemicals or artificial additives or treatments. Basically Non-GMO (genetically modified) seeds, Natural soil,
pure water and of course sunlight! No fertilizers, No pesticides! Where cattle are used for farming activities not machines (to avoid any pollution and dripping). There need to be all sort of organisms presents in the organic farm, which are supposed to occur naturally and part of ecological cycle. That makes the soil, 'living soil'. Organic farming depends on the interconnected web of soil, which include bacteria, fungi, earthworms and all sort of living organism to supply nutrients to plants.
This makes an ideal Organic Farm which preserve natural resource and biodiversity.

World wide there are different certifications bodies for organic farming and organic food. Not all of those bodies have stringent rules to follow all above requirements. Rather some of the bodies even allow few chemicals. Wee need more homogeneous laws on organic farming world wide.

Another issue is availability of Non-GMO seeds. It is hampered as biotechnology companies like Monsanto modify seeds (add toxic gene) and patient the seeds. They are buying most of seed companies across the globe to create dominance in global seed market. They also own share and bought trademarks of companies who are popular for Non-GMO seeds. The biotechnological companies are altering seeds genetically which can reduce nutrition value and can also linked to disabilities like down's syndrome. These companies don't allow farmers to save seeds legally, which burdens farmers financially.

So finding open pollinated, pure natural organic, Non-GMO seeds, is difficult task and only those companies who have Non-GMO seeds are not linked to Monsanto and Seminis in any way can have authentic non-GMO seeds.

World-wide there are ongoing campaigns against Monsanto, GMO seeds. Vandana Shiva from India's Navdanya is a prominent name in this campaign. There are ongoing campaigns even for having proper Organic labeling in countries like US. This shows how much money making is made on corporate level through out the world under the name of healthy food, which is not natural and can not be healthier.

Defining Sustainable Food 

But only organic food does not make food sustainable. The Production, Process, Distribution, Consumption and Waste disposal all this steps of food system should be sustainable to make Sustainable Food. The social, economic and environmental aspects of every step mentioned above has to be considered to call food 'sustainable'.

Welfare of farmers, allowing them to save seeds are some of the important actions needed in production of sustainable food. Because of seed monopoly by few biotechnology companies, farmers are going in debt. Governments in developing countries don't provide insurance for farmers, their water requirements are dependent on monsoon in countries like India, so if their crop is destroyed or if they don't get enough output these farmers are committing suicides.

Across the globe soil and  fresh water is getting contaminated not only by industrial waste but also the chemicals in pesticides and  fertilizers coming from farms. This makes it even more difficult to grow sustainable food. Using hormones to produce more milk in cows, fishing of unsustainable fish or over fishing, genetically modified chicken for more protein these are other wrong examples of unsustainable food.

The chemical processes done on food to preserve it or to enhance taste is affecting the nutrition values of our food. The increasing energy & water consumption during the food processing increases carbon footprint of the food product, making is unsustainable. Junk food popularity is good example of how we are going further away from sustainable food.

To make Distribution of food sustainable, fair trade and locally grown food are the key answers. Local farmers markets need to grow bigger worldwide.

Sustainable food consumption

While in consumption step, we need to stop consuming all sorts of unsustainable food. Consumer choice affects the most on food production. Stop buying non-organic food (choose organic food after reading all labels), in short stop buying those seedless fruits like grapes, watermelon etc and say no to unusually bigger size fruits and vegetables. Stop buying rare seafood and genetically modified meat. We need to increase the demand of sustainable food! Also our food choices can heavily impact the environment. Animal products like meat and dairy place heavy burden, as raising livestock requires larger amount of feed, water and energy.

Susatinable Food Disposal

Reducing waste of food is one big important step of sustainable food. Half of our Earth's population is going hungry, so we should not waste food.
On personal level we can follow these steps to reduce food wastage.
1. Stop overbuying of food
2. Cook food according to requirements.
3.  Plan meals before shopping
4. Ask your guests to confirm their attendance before party.
5. Donate food
6. Compost the waste food instead of throwing in garbage

Hotels & restaurants across the world need to tackle the issue of food waste. Offering different portion sizes, payment according to food weight at buffet, promoting take away of left over food these are few things restaurants can develop & follow. These businesses need to track their food waste regularly & update their action plans accordingly, this has to be continuing process. Food donation to charities, NGOs, labors or unprivileged people is picking up in developing countries. Many organizations like Feeding India pick up left over food from many big hotels on every day basis and providing it to unprivileged people on streets. This is a great opportunity to tackle the hunger issue and food wastage at the same time.

Go Local Or Grow Your Own

Regrowing Lettuce at my home from scrap

Best answer to sustainable food is to grow your own food. In your balcony, yard or small garden, use organic and food waste to create compost and use it instead of any fertilizer and make sure to buy non-GMO seeds or saplings. Use natural ways to keep pest away. That way you can have your own freshly picked food from your garden. Gardening is great way to reduce stress in your day to day life. This is best way to teach your kids about how food grows & what is sustainable food, right at your home. You can join local gardening groups and even swap plants, seeds and share knowledge.
The food which you can't grow by your self, give preference to buy it local.
Coriander from my window garden

Choose wisely and live sustainable!